Intel Officially Introduces Pay-As-You-Go Chip Licensing

Intel has officially revealed its Intel On Demand program that will activate select accelerators and features of the company’s upcoming Xeon Scalable Sapphire Rapids processor. The new pay-as-you-go program will allow Intel to reduce the number of SKUs it ships while still capitalizing on the technologies it has to offer. From a report: Furthermore, its clients will be able to upgrade their machines without replacing actual hardware or offering additional services to their clients. Intel’s upcoming Intel’s 4th Generation Xeon Scalable Sapphire Rapids processors are equipped with various special-purpose accelerators and security technologies that all customers do not need at all times. To offer such end-users additional flexibility regarding investments, Intel will deliver them to buy its CPUs with those capabilities disabled but turn them on if they are needed at some point. The Software Defined Silicon (SDSi) technology will also allow Intel to sell fewer CPU models and then enable its clients or partners to activate certain features if needed (to use them on-prem or offer them as a service). The list of technologies that Intel wants to make available on demand includes Software Guard Extensions, Dynamic Load Balancer (DLB), Intel Data Streaming Accelerator (DSA), Intel In-Memory Analytics Accelerator (IAA), Intel In-Memory Analytics Accelerator, and Intel QuickAssist Technology (QAT) to accelerate specific workloads.

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Intel Confirms Alder Lake BIOS Source Code Leaked

Tom’s Hardware reports:

We recently broke the news that Intel’s Alder Lake BIOS source code had been leaked to 4chan and Github, with the 6GB file containing tools and code for building and optimizing BIOS/UEFI images. We reported the leak within hours of the initial occurrence, so we didn’t yet have confirmation from Intel that the leak was genuine. Intel has now issued a statement to Tom’s Hardware confirming the incident:

“Our proprietary UEFI code appears to have been leaked by a third party. We do not believe this exposes any new security vulnerabilities as we do not rely on obfuscation of information as a security measure. This code is covered under our bug bounty program within the Project Circuit Breaker campaign, and we encourage any researchers who may identify potential vulnerabilities to bring them our attention through this program….”

The BIOS/UEFI of a computer initializes the hardware before the operating system has loaded, so among its many responsibilities, is establishing connections to certain security mechanisms, like the TPM (Trusted Platform Module). Now that the BIOS/UEFI code is in the wild and Intel has confirmed it as legitimate, both nefarious actors and security researchers alike will undoubtedly probe it to search for potential backdoors and security vulnerabilities….

Intel hasn’t confirmed who leaked the code or where and how it was exfiltrated. However, we do know that the GitHub repository, now taken down but already replicated widely, was created by an apparent LC Future Center employee, a China-based ODM that manufactures laptops for several OEMs, including Lenovo.
Thanks to Slashdot reader Hmmmmmm for sharing the news.

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A New Vulnerability in Intel and AMD CPUs Lets Hackers Steal Encryption Keys

Microprocessors from Intel, AMD, and other companies contain a newly discovered weakness that remote attackers can exploit to obtain cryptographic keys and other secret data traveling through the hardware, researchers said on Tuesday. From a report: Hardware manufacturers have long known that hackers can extract secret cryptographic data from a chip by measuring the power it consumes while processing those values. Fortunately, the means for exploiting power-analysis attacks against microprocessors is limited because the threat actor has few viable ways to remotely measure power consumption while processing the secret material. Now, a team of researchers has figured out how to turn power-analysis attacks into a different class of side-channel exploit that’s considerably less demanding.

The team discovered that dynamic voltage and frequency scaling (DVFS) — a power and thermal management feature added to every modern CPU — allows attackers to deduce the changes in power consumption by monitoring the time it takes for a server to respond to specific carefully made queries. The discovery greatly reduces what’s required. With an understanding of how the DVFS feature works, power side-channel attacks become much simpler timing attacks that can be done remotely. The researchers have dubbed their attack Hertzbleed because it uses the insights into DVFS to expose — or bleed out — data that’s expected to remain private. The vulnerability is tracked as CVE-2022-24436 for Intel chips and CVE-2022-23823 for AMD CPUs. The researchers have already shown how the exploit technique they developed can be used to extract an encryption key from a server running SIKE, a cryptographic algorithm used to establish a secret key between two parties over an otherwise insecure communications channel.

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Intel Beats AMD and Nvidia with Arc GPU’s Full AV1 Support

Neowin notes growing support for the “very efficient, potent, royalty-free video codec” AV1, including Microsoft’s adding of support for hardware acceleration of AV1 on Windows.

But AV1 even turned up in Intel’s announcement this week of the Arc A-series, a new line of discrete GPUs, Neowin reports:

Intel has been quick to respond and the company has become the first such GPU hardware vendor to have full AV1 support on its newly launched Arc GPUs. While AMD and Nvidia both offer AV1 decoding with their newest GPUs, neither have support for AV1 encoding.

Intel says that hardware encoding of AV1 on its new Arc GPUs is 50 times faster than those based on software-only solutions. It also adds that the efficiency of AV1 encode with Arc is 20% better compared to HEVC. With this feature, Intel hopes to potentially capture at least some of the streaming and video editing market that’s based on users who are looking for a more robust AV1 encoding solution compared to CPU-based software approaches.

From Intel’s announcement:
Intel Arc A-Series GPUs are the first in the industry to offer full AV1 hardware acceleration, including both encode and decode, delivering faster video encode and higher quality streaming while consuming the same internet bandwidth. We’ve worked with industry partners to ensure that AV1 support is available today in many of the most popular media applications, with broader adoption expected this year. The AV1 codec will be a game changer for the future of video encoding and streaming.

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Intel Enters Discrete GPU Market With Launch of Arc A-Series For Laptops

MojoKid writes: Today Intel finally launched its first major foray into discrete GPUs for gamers and creators. Dubbed Intel Arc A-Series and comprised of 5 different chips built on two different Arc Alchemist SoCs, the company announced its entry level Arc 3 Graphics is shipping in market now with laptop OEMs delivering new all-Intel products shortly. The two SoCs set the foundation across three performance tiers, including Arc 3, Arc 5, and Arc 7.

For example, Arc A370M arrives today with 8 Xe cores, 8 ray tracing units, 4GB of GDDR6 memory linked to a 64-bit memory bus, and a 1,550MHz graphics clock. Graphics power is rated at 35-50W. However, Arc A770M, Intel’s highest-end mobile GPU will come with 32 Xe cores, 32 ray tracing units, 16GB of GDDR 6 memory over a 256-bit interface and with a 1650MHz graphics clock. Doing the math, Arc A770M could be up to 4X more powerful than Arc 370M. In terms of performance, Intel showcased benchmarks from a laptop outfitted with a Core i7-12700H processor and Arc A370M GPU that can top the 60 FPS threshold at 1080p in many games where integrated graphics could come up far short. Examples included Doom Eternal (63 fps) at high quality settings, and Hitman 3 (62 fps), and Destiny 2 (66 fps) at medium settings. Intel is also showcasing new innovations for content creators as well, with its Deep Link, Hyper Encode and AV1 video compression support offering big gains in video upscaling, encoding and streaming. Finally, Intel Arc Control software will offer unique features like Smooth Sync that blends tearing artifacts when V-Synch is turned off, as well as Creator Studio with background blur, frame tracking and broadcast features for direct game streaming services support.

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Intel’s Pay-As-You-Go CPU Feature Gets Launch Window

Intel’s mysterious Software Defined Silicon (SDSi) mechanism for adding features to Xeon CPUs will be officially supported in Linux 5.18, the next major release of the operating system. Tom’s Hardware reports: SDSi allows users to add features to their CPU after they’ve already purchased it. Formal SDSi support means that the technology is coming to Intel’s Xeon processors that will be released rather shortly, implying Sapphire Rapids will be the first CPUs with SDSi. Intel started to roll out Linux patches to enable its SDSi functionality in the OS last September. By now, several sets of patches have been released and it looks like they will be added to Linux 5.18, which is due this Spring. Hans de Goede, a long-time Linux developer who works at Red Hat on a wide array of hardware enablement related projects, claims that SDSi will land in Linux 5.18 if no problems emerge, reports Phoronix. “Assuming no major issues are found, the plan definitely is to get this in before the 5.18 merge window,” said de Goede.

Intel Software Defined Silicon (SDSi) is a mechanism for activating additional silicon features in already produced and deployed server CPUs using the software. While formal support for the functionality is coming to Linux 5.18 and is set to be available this spring, Intel hasn’t disclosed what exactly it plans to enable using its pay-as-you-go CPU upgrade model. We don’t know how it works and what it enables, but we can make some educated guesses. […]

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Intel’s Expensive New Plan to Upgrade Its Chip Technology – and US Manufacturing

America’s push to manufacturer more products domestically gets an in-depth look from CNET — including a new Intel chip factory outside of Phoenix.

CNET calls it a fork in the road “after squandering its lead because of a half decade of problems modernizing its manufacturing…”

With “a decade of bad decisions, this doesn’t get fixed overnight,” says Pat Gelsinger, Intel’s new chief executive, in an interview. “But the bottom is behind us and the slope is starting to feel increasingly strong….” More fabs are on the way, too. In an enormous empty patch of dirt at its existing Arizona site, Intel has just begun building fabs 52 and 62 at a total cost of $20 billion, set to make Intel’s most advanced chips, starting in 2024. Later this year, it hopes to announce the U.S. location for its third major manufacturing complex, a 1,000-acre site costing about $100 billion. The spending commitment makes this year’s $3.5 billion upgrade to its New Mexico fab look cheap. The goal is to restore the U.S. share of chip manufacturing, which has slid from 37% in 1990 to 12% today. “Over the decade in front of us, we should be striving to bring the U.S. to 30% of worldwide semiconductor manufacturing,” Gelsinger says…

But returning Intel to its glory days — and anchoring a resurgent U.S. electronics business in the process — is much easier said than done. Making chips profitably means running fabs at maximum capacity to pay off the gargantuan investments required to stay at the leading edge. A company that can’t keep pace gets squeezed out, like IBM in 2014 or Global Foundries in 2018. To catch up after its delays, Intel now plans to upgrade its manufacturing five times in the next four years, a breakneck pace by industry standards. “This new roadmap that they announced is really aggressive,” says Linley Group analyst Linley Gwennap. “I don’t have any idea how they are going to accomplish all of that….”

Gelsinger has a tech-first recovery plan. He’s pledged to accelerate manufacturing upgrades to match the technology of TSMC and Samsung by 2024 and surpass them in 2025. He’s opening Intel’s fabs to other companies that need chips built through its new Intel Foundry Services (IFS). And he’s relying on other foundries, including TSMC, for about a quarter of Intel’s near-term chipmaking needs to keep its chips more competitive during the upgrades. This three-pronged strategy is called IDM (integrated design and manufacturing) 2.0. That’s a new take on Intel’s philosophy of both designing and making chips. It’s more ambitious than the future some had expected, in which Intel would sell its factories and join the ranks of “fabless” chip designers like Nvidia, AMD and Qualcomm that rely on others for manufacturing…

Shareholders may not like Gelsinger’s spending-heavy strategy, but one community really does: Intel’s engineers… Gelsigner told the board that Intel is done with stock buybacks, a financial move in which a company uses its cash to buy stock and thereby increase its price. “We’re investing in factories,” he told me. “That’s going to be the use of our cash….”

“We cannot recall the last time Intel put so many stakes in the ground,” said BMO Capital Markets analyst Ambrish Srivastava in a July research report after Intel announced its schedule.

Intel will even outpace Moore’s law, Gelsinger tells CNET — more than doubling the transistor count on processors every two years. “I believe that you’re going to see from 2025 to 2035 a very healthy period for Moore’s Law-like behavior.”

Although that still brings some risk to Intel’s investments if they have to pass the costs on to customer, a Linley Group analyst points out to CNET. “Moore’s Law is not going to end when we can’t build smaller transistors. It’s going to end when somebody says I don’t want to pay for smaller transistors.”

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